The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon recently decided a case in which they found that the maintenance supervisor of a public park was not entitled to immunity from a premises liability lawsuit alleging that his negligence resulted in injury to the plaintiff. The plaintiff in the case of Johnson vs. Gibson is a blind woman who was injured when she fell into a hole that had been dug by the defendant in a public park in Oregon. The issue decided by the Oregon Supreme Court in Johnson vs. Gibson was not dispositive as to the plaintiff’s claim of negligence, but instead it focused on whether her case could proceed against the defendant, who was an employee of the City of Portland, which is itself immune from the lawsuit under Oregon law.
Sovereign Immunity and the Court’s Analysis of the Defendant’s Claim of Immunity
The defendant’s motion to dismiss the case against him was based on the fact that in Oregon (as is also the case in Florida), governmental agencies cannot be sued for the negligence of their employees in the same way that a private company can. Longstanding legal precedent has established that governments and municipal subdivisions are not liable in the courts for simple negligence, and every state in the country, as well as the federal government, have since put this sovereign immunity on the books as part of the state and federal codes. In many jurisdictions, it is possible for negligence victims to collect damages through an alternative process, and there are also other methods of recovery that can be used to help accident victims collect damages against a negligent government employee.
Although governmental units and subdivisions themselves cannot be held accountable for the negligence of an employee, the employees themselves can often be sued in their individual capacity. In Johnson v. Gibson, the plaintiff sued the maintenance supervisor who was alleged to have negligently dug the hole that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury. The defendant claimed that as a supervisor, he was an “occupier” of the land and should also be protected by the sovereign immunity granted to the city itself. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed and found that he was not the owner or occupier of the park in a sense that would grant him immunity. As a result of the court’s ruling, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed toward a settlement or trial.
The Legal Standard for a Premises Liability Lawsuit in Florida
Florida landowners and those in possession of property have a legal duty toward visitors to the property. Public invitees, business invitees, and social invitees are entitled to the most protection. To these persons, the premises owner has a duty to correct or warn of dangers of which the owner has knowledge or should have knowledge through reasonable care. The owner must also maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. The issue of sovereign immunity may arise when the property is owned or operated by a state or municipality, but such facts are not an automatic bar to recovery. Victims of negligently maintained property in South Florida, whether private or publicly owned, should contact a qualified Miami injury attorney to discuss their options for recovery.
Are You a Victim of Negligence?
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed on another person’s property, you could be entitled to compensation from the landowner or another responsible party. A qualified Miami premises liability attorney can advise you of your rights under Florida law and help you seek recourse against any responsible parties. The skilled South Florida injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have decades of experience aggressively fighting to seek the compensation that victims deserve. Our qualified and dedicated Miami injury lawyers know how to use the relevant laws to increase our clients’ chances of recovery. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in Miami and throughout South Florida in most personal injury and wrongful death cases, including premises liability claims. If you or a loved one have been injured by the wrongful conduct of another, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or via our online contact form. Se habla Español/Nou Parlé Creole.
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Families of Athletes Diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy May Have Claim against Sports League, March 25, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog